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New Report Reveals That Campus Sexual Assault Begins Much Earlier Than College

An investigation by the Associated Press found there are more than 4,200 yearly reports of sexual assault by school-aged children and teens.


By Gillian Fuller, Allure
 
It's often noted that around one in five college women experiences some form of sexual assault in their time at school. But according to a recent report by the Associated Press, school sexual violence often begins earlier than college—way earlier.

[post_ads]The AP conducted a year-long investigation of state education records and federal crime data to identify the frequency of sexual assault reports among primary- and secondary-school students. The investigation, which compiled data from the four-year period between fall 2011 and spring 2015, found there were a total of 17,000 official reports of sexual assault by students in grades K-12. That’s approximately 4,250 cases reported per year, the majority of which involved female victims under the age of 14.

Though the AP found that students between 10 and 14 were the most likely to report a sexual assault, younger students are far from immune: Some five percent of all the assaults reported featured victims between the ages of five and six. While the most common form of assault was unwanted fondling, one in five of the students who were assaulted were sodomized, raped, or penetrated with an object.

What's more, the AP states that the true rate of sexual violence by students in primary and middle schools is likely much higher than this data suggests. Only about 10 to 30 percent of sexual assaults are actually reported, and some states don’t even track instances of sexual violence (there's no federal requirement that elementary and middle schools do so). Those that do record instances of sexual violence often have different criteria for what constitutes assault. And when sexual violence does occur, administrators often feel compelled to sweep it under the rug or mischaracterize it as “bullying” or “hazing."

“No principal wants their school to be the rape school, to be listed in the newspaper as being investigated," Dr. Bill Howe, a former K-12 teacher in Connecticut, explained. "Schools try to bury it. It’s the courageous principal that does the right thing.”
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Kristen Houser, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's chief public affairs officer, believes that this mislabeling and underreporting has to do with an unwillingness to see kids as sexually violent. "When you get into youthful offending it’s very difficult for people to accept that children or teenagers would be involved in this behavior," she told Huffpost

Given that student acts of sexual violence are an issue long before kids get to college, though, it's important that elementary and middle schools address the issue head-on — including by providing education about consent and agency. "We really want people to look at this report, take it seriously and recognize that schools have an obligation to maintain safe learning environments under Title IX, just like universities do,” Houser added.

More on sexual violence:

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Lifestyle Magazine: New Report Reveals That Campus Sexual Assault Begins Much Earlier Than College
New Report Reveals That Campus Sexual Assault Begins Much Earlier Than College
An investigation by the Associated Press found there are more than 4,200 yearly reports of sexual assault by school-aged children and teens.
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